A Comparison of Lead Hazard Screens,
Lead-Paint Inspections and Lead-Paint Risk Assessments
Under the federal lead paint disclosure requirements, home buyers and renters are given up to
10 days (or a different period, if they and the seller agree) to conduct a lead inspection and/or risk assessment. It is important that home buyers understand their rights and consider taking advantage of this opportunity. The following
discusses some of the options available to owners to properly identify and assess lead-based paint and their hazards.
Risk assessments and lead inspections should not be confused with a home inspection. Home inspectors are usually not
licensed by states and may not have special training in leadbased paint hazards. If home buyers are planning on getting a home inspection to check that building systems and appliances are in good working order, they may want to consider
questioning prospective home inspectors’ training, qualifications, and certifications related to leadbased paint hazards. By Federal regulation (40 CFR Part 745), as of 1 March 2000, lead inspections and risk assessments may only be
performed by certified persons.
Lead Hazard Screenings
Owners of housing that is in good physical condition may be interested in having a Lead Hazard Screen. A lead hazard
screen is an abbriviated type of risk assessment. It is designed specifically for homes that are likely to be free of lead hazards. The lead hazard screen invloves fewer environmental samples and less data collection but has more stringent
dust guidance levels. Thus, lead hazard screens is designed to reduce the evaluation costs for the owner, while also protecting the health of the residents.
Units in poor condition are not good candidates for the screen, since interior dust levels and paint deterioration make
it unlikely that the unit will pass the more stringent dust levels used in the screen. In this case, the unit should undergo a complete risk assessment at an additional cost to the owner.
A lead inspection is designed to answer two questions:
“Is there lead-based paint present in the housing unit?” and “Where is the lead-based paint?” Surveying a housing unit for lead-based paint is typically performed using an XRay Fluorescence analyzer, called an XRF. Paint or other coatings with lead levels above the established threshold are considered leadbased. The HUD Guidelines include a mandatory protocol for conducting a lead inspection. A Final Inspection Report identifies all surfaces with leadbased paint but does not provide the consumer with information about the condition of the paint, the presence of lead contaminated dust or soil, or options for controlling any hazards found.
A lead paint inspection is most appropriate for property owners who need to know where leadbased paint is located, such
as in the following situations:
- People considering renovation, remodeling or demolition work that would disturb painted surfaces and may generate lead
dust hazards unless proper precautions are followed.
- Home sellers desiring specific information about lead for marketing purposes.
- Home buyers or renters who want to know how much lead paint is present and its location (or who feel strongly that they
want a home that contains no lead-based paint).
- Rental property owners seeking exemption from the federal lead disclosure requirements by demonstrating that a specific
property does not contain leadbased paint.
- Rental property owners who might need or desire documentation about leadbased paint for insurance, financing, or other
- Those facing a state or local requirement to abate all leadbased paint.
Lead Risk Assessments
A lead risk assessment identifies leadbased paint hazards which are conditions that can cause harmful exposures to lead,
particularly for young children and pregnant women.
Risk assessors identify leadbased paint hazards by conducting a visual examination of the unit for signs of paint
deterioration, analyzing deteriorated paint to determine if it is leadbased, and collecting dust and soil samples for laboratory analysis. A Risk Assessment Report identifies leadbased paint hazards found, and provides options for
controlling these hazards.
Risk assessments may be appropriate in the following situations:
Parents who are concerned about their child’s lead exposure in their current home.
Owners, buyers, or renters who want to know if a home has lead hazards that would likely pose a risk to their family and
if so, what control options are available.
Home sellers or lessors who want to document the presence or absence of lead-based paint hazards in their property so as
to reduce potential buyers’ or renters’ concerns about lead hazards.
Owners of multifamily properties who may need a risk assessment in order to qualify for insurance or financing, or to
provide additional documentation for liability purposes.
When states or local governments require owners to conduct a risk assessment because a child living in the housing unit
has an elevated blood lead level. (Note that public health department environmental investigations of children with elevated blood lead levels often involve more comprehensive evaluations than a standard risk assessment).
Property owners who want to understand the full range of hazard control options that can be used to address leadbased